Workplace Depression Caused Primarily by Workplace Injustice

By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.

Twelve percent of American workers have been diagnosed as depressed at some point, which has cost companies over $23 billion in absenteeism. Why are workers so depressed? It’s not because they don’t like their jobs. Nor is it due to heavy workloads. The results of a Danish study show that the bosses’ behavior is the main cause of workplace depression.

Work-motivated depression primarily stems from work environments in which the bosses are guilty of workplace injustice. This could mean they practice inconsistent decision-making procedures, lack transparency and cooperation among employees, refuse to consider employees’ viewpoints, display personal bias, and treat their employees with inconsideration.

Bosses also can cause workplace depression among their employees by failing to engage their workers. By engaging their workers, bosses show employees that their opinions count. They encourage employee development and recognize employees for their hard work.

Employers should definitely take workplace depression seriously. If they don’t, they risk workers compensation claims, high health care costs, loss of productivity, and absenteeism.

Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, Aarhus University psychologist, told

Science Nordic, “I recommend a management style in which there is a clearly expressed wish to treat employees properly – combined with a transparent organizational structure.”

Gallup, a research-based, global performance-management consulting company, conducted a year-long phone survey that concluded that one in eight American workers have at one time struggled with Depression. Dan Witters, principal at Gallup, argues that leaders of organizations need to employ strategies to improve their employees’ mental health. One such strategy includes allocating the resources necessary for early identification. Witters says, “If the worker is far enough down the rabbit hole, it can be a bad situation for them and for their employer.” Other strategies include employee assistance programs, efforts to culturally de-stigmatize depression and its treatment in the workplace, and educating management to address depression.

Inc, a website focused on serving the needs of influential entrepreneurs and company leaders, recommends that bosses do the following:

  • Treat each employee as a valuable member of your team, and give them the autonomy to make decisions and do their work as they see fit, so long as they meet their performance standards.”
  • ·Involve employees more deeply in your organization by inviting them to join cross-functional teams that draw on the expertise and talent of people from different parts of the organization.”
  • ·Be as transparent with your people as you can be, in terms of providing information on how the company makes and loses money, letting them in on any strategies you may have and explaining to them their role in the big picture.”
  • Regularly set aside time to tell your people what they are doing right and point out any areas for improvement. If performance is not up to par, work with them to develop ideas on how to improve.”
  • Never make a promise you can’t keep, and when you do make a promise -- no matter how small it might be -- be sure to follow through with it.”
  • Regularly set time aside for team-building exercises and meetings, and make them fun so your employees actually look forward to participating rather than looking for reasons to ditch them.”
  • “Thank your employees personally and promptly when you catch them doing something right by writing a quick thank-you email or text message, or by dropping by their office to tell them in person.”

From corporate to small business, relationship counseling may be one of the best available options for improving your workforce. For more information on relationship counseling at work, please feel free to reach out to me at or at my website,